My first job was for the BBC in a show called Jumping Bean Bag. It was a Play for Today – a popular anthology series that featured weekly adaptations of stage plays and novels, as well as plays originally written for television. As it happens, the play I made my debut in was originally called Slagbag but, being the BBC, the title got changed. I was 13 years old at the time. I was at the Anna Scher school and she had put me up for it. Even though Play for Today was quite a big thing at the time, I don’t think you get nervous at 13 – just excited to be doing a job you never thought possible.
Anna Scher wasn’t a full-time drama school, we attended in the evenings, but what Anna and [co-director] Charles Verrall did for me, and for all of us, was provide a much-needed comfort blanket and the feeling that I wasn’t facing the acting world alone.
They gave us tools we could use, and made sure that, even at an early age, we acknowledged the realities of being an actor: this is a job that can be great when you’re working but testing when you are not. She also taught us her “five Ps of professional people”. They included punctuality, presentation and another ‘p’ which was constantly repeated: to be positive. I have been a professional actor for more than 30 years, but that is still the advice I would give to any person coming into this business today: to be positive but to be realistic. You have to learn your trade but you also have to make rejection your friend. And if you cannot take rejection, then you are definitely in the wrong profession.
Training: Anna Scher Theatre
Theatre includes: An Evening With Gary Lineker (Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch); The Healing (Omnibus Theatre, Clapham); On a Level (Theatre Royal Stratford East); But Stop We Got Work to Do (Bloomsbury Theatre, London); Get Raunchy (Attic, Hackney Picturehouse)
TV includes: Angels (BBC); No Problem (Channel 4); The Real McCoy (BBC); EastEnders (BBC); The Five (Sky); Still Open All Hours (BBC)
Film includes: Provoked (2006)
Other credits: Co-founder of Black Theatre Co-operative (now Nitro); founder member of black female theatre group the BiBi Crew
Agent: Lee Morgan
Judith Jacob is currently appearing in the UK tour of Seeds: seedstheplay.co.uk. She was talking to John Byrne